Inks Lake: Let The Camping Begin

My camping story begins with Inks Lake. This is where I learned to love camping as a child and it is where I returned to reunite myself with the great outdoors. Inks holds my childhood and my reunited love of camping. This park is my home. I returned here with my family for the first time just over three years ago after being away for more than 22 years. I wanted to share some of my favorite childhood memories with my daughters. I feared they would miss the computer, the TV, or one of the many other daily distractions, that I would hear the disappointing “I’m bored.” It never happened. Nature won them over.

Camping as an adult is different than camping as a child. As a child, we have no responsibilities, really, except to get out there and have fun. We contribute here and there, but by in large, the bulk of the work is done for us. As adults, we take on the tasks and try to learn and balance the fun with the work. I am beginning to suspect the key to this balance has something to do with being able to simplify. Simplifying is not my forte. I struggle with it constantly. Camping has a lot to teach me, though, and I am her willing, though not graceful, student.

Inks Lake is nestled in the heart of the Hill Country on the Colorado River in Burnet County located on the Highland Lakes Chain and is surrounded by granite hills. Inks Lake is one of five lakes on this chain along the Colorado River and is a constant level lake, so it is minimally affected by floods and drought.

We arrived Friday night. It was a chilly 32 degrees and rainy. Many of our friends thought we were crazy for going out in the cold, rainy weather, but we were eager to get out there and decided we would deal with whatever nature brought our way. We weren’t excited about the rain, but we had a nice, relaxing first day. We spent most of the day in the tent resting, playing games, and reading. I loved hearing the rain falling on the tent. Every now and then, it would stop raining and we would step out of the tent to take a look around. In the evening, it stopped raining long enough for us to build a fire and cook dinner.

Sunday morning was beautiful and we all knew exactly what we wanted to do first.

Life is better outside, but life is even better outside in a kayak. Some friends of ours loaned us their kayaks for the week and it was, by far, the highlight of the trip. I loved being out over the water. It was so peaceful and quiet, but exciting at the same time. We could go anywhere, adventure awaiting us at every turn. We traveled to new places and gained a different perspective of our favorite spots. The entire family is hooked.

Photo by Katy Poulter

I learned something about kayaking. When you are more than a mile away from your campsite, the wind is blowing directly toward you, and your shoulders are on fire, only one thing will help you…your niece singing “Just Around The Riverbend” at the top of her lungs.

Our friends came out for a day visit early in the week. We enjoyed a relaxing day hanging out together. The weather was warm enough for swimming and the girls enjoyed an hour on a paddle boat, but I think kayaking made the top of the list that day.

Photo by Kynna Sullivan

When we camp at Inks, the girls love to take a daily trip to the General Store. It’s a small, country store with friendly staff. Sometimes, we sit on the back porch and play checkers.

There are several beautiful hiking trails at Inks Lake. One of our favorite hikes leads to Devil’s Waterhole, a popular spot for swimming. It’s also a popular spot for cliff jumping.

Although Devil’s Waterhole is popular, our favorite place to swim lies just up the hill and further down the trail at the falls on Valley Spring Creek. The creek feeds into Inks Lake. The rocks and cliffs all around Devil’s Waterhole and surrounding the creek have beautiful pink veins running through them. This is called Valley Spring Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) and is formed from recrystalized sedimentary rocks.

Valley Spring Gneiss

Valley Spring Creek Falls

Photo by Scott Siebert

My sister and her daughter camped with us for a few nights. My sister and I had not been to the falls together since we were kids. We reminisced about riding down the falls in tubes and camping at Inks when we were young. On the last day of our stay, our Mom and Dad joined us. We all hiked up to the falls together, remembering our past adventures at Inks Lake and made a few new memories, too.

Overall, we had a great trip, but with Spring Break, the park was packed and we had several annoying neighbors. Another important camping lesson for me to learn is how not to lash out irrationally at rude and inconsiderate neighboring campers and if I do, who really wins in the end. Early on, I was friendly and reasonable. By the end of the week, I resembled a militant maniac at war defending my campsite. I actually started thinking of ways I could use my gear to form a barricade of sorts around the campsite. I can’t really say this was my finest moment at embracing all that nature has to offer. There will always be people around who will interfere with important moments. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. The question is, how much power will I give them?

Camping is not always the “getting away from it all” experience that I’d like it to be, but I still love it just the same. For me, it’s necessary. Spring Break brings it’s own challenges with people who have different ideas of what the camping experience should be like, but how do I keep loving something with the same passion in spite of the flaws? Sometimes you can live with the flaws, and sometimes you have to walk away. I think I’ve learned what’s worth holding on to and what’s worth letting go. The lesson is accepting what I do love entirely and learning not to let a few irritations ruin the entire experience. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

In the meantime, maybe learning a little backpacking wouldn’t hurt, either.

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18 thoughts on “Inks Lake: Let The Camping Begin”

    1. Thank you! Thank you for all of your patience, and your support! 🙂 We had a great time, didn’t we? Well, except for those noisy neighbors! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nessie! I don’t know about that, but I’m having fun anyway! Thank you for reading and leaving a comment! We need to get together soon!

  1. This sounds like a great Spring Break trip! (apart from the annoying neighbours, but those seem to be common in campground unfortunately). The kayaking, hiking, swimming, visit to the small country store, and time with family all sound so lovely. It’s great that you can share one of your special childhood spots with your girls. We don’t have children yet, but sharing special places is one of the things I’m really looking forward to with being a parent.

    1. Thank you, Marcelle! It’s been fun getting out there. I find myself planning the next trip as soon as I get home! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I enjoy hearing from you and reading about your adventures and gardening. When you do have children, they will have no shortage on outdoor adventure or appreciating nature with you to foster their excitement!

    1. Thank you! It was fun, I think we will be investing in some kayaks pretty soon. I loved reading about your rafting trip! I can’t wait to read about more of your adventures. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment.

  2. Awesome!

    The pix are great…I really like the sunset/sunrise shot over the water.

    Your story reminds me of when my family used to go to Table Rock Lake in MO when I was a kid. Those were pretty good times.

    There is a remedy for those pesky neighbors… Most times, a ‘hike to’ campsite will filter those guys out… enough beer is too heavy to carry if you’re hiking to your campsite as opposed to driving up to it and unloading your living room. lol

    I have been boating… but never kayaking… just added that one to the list. 🙂

    It’s great to see you making progress on your resolution! I really am looking forward to seeing where you guys go next.

    …Hopefully, my schedule will allow for a short trip in the near future…I’m getting antsy… but until then, I’ll just enjoy your family’s trips!

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lol, Joe, I literally laughed so hard when I read your beer and living room comment, I had the whole family asking me what was so funny! So true! Great to hear from you! Yes, I think you are right. We just got back from a weekend camping trip and we stayed in a walk-in campsite. It wasn’t too far from the car, but I think it was far enough. We had a pleasant experience. I’m hoping to get a backpacking trip together for the fall at a park called Lost Maples. I would love to hear any suggestions you might have about backpacking tents . I was thinking about two small tents instead of one larger one. I am completely new to backpacking, but I’m excited about it.

      Selfishly, I hope you are able to go on a trip soon, too. I love reading about your adventures!

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

      1. Okay… 🙂

        REI has a great selection of tents… and in some places, they rent too!
        I checked and see that REI Austin offers tent rentals – That may be something to consider on your first backpacking trip.

        Sounds like you guys have a pretty big tent already, but carrying one of those can be a pain…in more places than one. Lol

        Texas rain…as you know can be pretty harsh, so something with a decent rain-fly is a must…and being able to stand up in a wind storm is a definite plus as well.

        Two, two-person tents should do. These are easy to set up and break down…and in backpacking terms, we call them, ‘group gear’, because everyone can share the load. One person carries the tent body and the other carries the rain-fly and poles. That translates to about 2.5-3 lbs each. (You can do this with cooking gear and food as well)
        Just about any two-person tent is going to be a tight fit with two people and a little gear inside, but most tents have some sort of vestibule that will cover any gear you can’t get inside the tent.

        Another thing to keep in mind…the lighter the tent, the more fragile it’s going to be in the field. So in reality, there’s a chance that by choosing a 6 lb tent over a 4.5 lb tent, you will not only save money…but could possibly get a couple more years out of the heavier tent.
        I started out with mid weight gear, and I as progressed in field experience, and through my own use and habits in the field, I was able to dial my gear into my personality…so to speak.

        Condensation is another important factor – nothing is more annoying than a steady drip inside the tent while you are trying to sleep. Good ventilation is key factor in selecting a tent that will work for you. I have come to really like tents with mesh tops. In great weather, you can lie inside and see all the stars…bug free, and the mesh will not allow condensation to form… adding the rain-fly changes things though. With the rain-fly, you are almost always going to get some condensation inside… but that can be controlled with adequate ventilation.

        I would almost suggest renting a couple tents for some outings before you go out on a longer trip. It’s a lot easier to learn what you don’t like about a tent in a weekend…than having to ‘live with it’ for week in the field and then be stuck with a tent you don’t like.

        Some great brands to check out: MSR, REI and Sierra Designs are pretty good to start.

        REI gear is going to give you the biggest selection and in most cases the lowest prices. (and rentals)

        MSR makes a higher end tent that is durable…as long as you’re careful. ( The Hubba and the Carbon Reflex series)

        Sierra Designs makes a great upper mid-level tent… but you have to be savvy when looking at these… because some can get REALLY wet on the inside – with or without a rain-fly.

        Here is a link that will give you an idea of what’s out there:

        http://www.rei.com/search?cat=4500001_Tents+and+Shelters&jxSleeping%20capacity=2-person&sortby=Sales+Dollars+%28Descending%29&hist=cat%2C4500001_Tents+and+Shelters%3ATents+and+Shelters%5EjxSleeping+capacity%2C2-person

        Hope this helps!

        Feel free to ask if you have any questions…and Happy Shopping!

  3. Joe, this is the best tent advice I have ever received, I can’t thank you enough! It’s good to know a little more weight might be better. I was thinking we were sacrificing quality by considering some of the heavier (6lbs vs 3lbs) tents because of price. I didn’t want to invest $400 in a tent and not like the tent! Thank you for reminding me about renting gear. That is excellent advice especially since we are beginners and should learn a bit before we invest money. Thank you so much! In between your trips, if you consider making blog entries for backpacking advice, I’m sure you would have many appreciative readers, especially since your blog inspires people to want to get out there and try it out! Thank you again!

    1. My pleasure, Linda!

      The lighter tents are awesome when you’re carrying them… but they really are fragile in the field. Granite tends to wear on a tent bottom pretty quickly. There are, what they call, footprints, available for most tents – these are fitted to the tent bottom and you place the tent on it, instead of the ground when setting up.

      The ultra light tents, are great for single hikers that are counting and shaving ounces…because they have to carry everything.

      With a family, it may make sense to compromise between functionality and durability.

      My favorite has been the MSR Hubba Hubba. I’ve put some holes in mine over the years… but it’s nothing a little duct tape or rubber cement couldn’t fix.

      Me…I’m not thinking resale when I buy something…I’m buying it to use, and can accept when it’s time to get some new stuff, knowing that I’ve gotten all I could out of whatever I’m replacing. I don’t go into the field with a ‘China shop’ mentality, but I am aware of the limitations of my gear and will operate within those parameters… most of the time…hence the holes, lol. And there’s always the unexpected…

      Great idea on blog posts between trips! …never really thought about posting how-to’s or advice…

      Looks like my next trip can’t be until May. I’m shooting for Utah’s Zion NP and Bryce Canyon. Never been… so it should be another learning experience!

      Family is coming to visit in July…and they want to do Yosemite and Sequoia…so that’s on the list too. (I can never get tired of Yosemite!)

      I’ll think about some things I had questions about when I was getting started and put together a post. Thanks for the idea and let me know if you have any other questions or concerns, and I’ll cover those too!

      Have a great weekend and have a great next outing!

      1. Lol, I LOVE duct tape! What would we do without it! I agree with you, when we do purchase our backpacking tents, I want to make sure we are investing in something we like and can use until they are worn out. I really like the rental idea because we can decide what we like/don’t like about them.

        Oh, I have a friend who used to visit Bryce and Zion every other year with his sister who lived in California. His pictures were stunning. Both of those places are on my list of places I’d like to visit. Sequoia and Yosemite are also on my list. My niece spent the summer in LA and posted pics of Sequoia that were amazing. I can’t believe I’ve never been to Yosemite, but it’s true! Can’t wait to read about both of your trips!

        I can think of lots of questions, you may be sorry you asked! Lol. What is your packing list? What problems do you anticipate and how do you plan for them? What about bear precautions? (we don’t have to worry about bears in Texas) I’m sure there are many more, but am not even sure what to ask. I’m excited that you are considering posting some tips on your blog! Thank you again for the great advice!

  4. Joe has given you some good advice, particularly about renting gear before buying. I mentioned on Westerner54’s blog about using Backpacker.com to do your research. You don’t have to register unles you want to ask a question or post a comment.
    I’ve never backpacked in TX, although in live there, preferring to venture to the mountains of AR.
    However, I’ve read that the best TX state parks for backpacking are Lost Maples and Hill Country SP.
    I too had a similar experience with loud neighbors at a state park and decided I’d rather just walk away from the crowds, hence the recreation of backpacking. And those people that you encounter 2 or 3 miles from the trailhead are kindred spirits.
    Welcome to backpacking, you’re gonna love it after the initial learning curve as rookies.

    1. Great advice, Marty, thank you! We have a backpacking trip lined up for Lost Maples in the fall. We are diving in and have no equipment, so will probably be renting from REI. Have never been to Hill Country, but will have to check it out. Thank you for the advice and encouragement! Can’t wait to get out there and try it out!

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